Croatian high jump superstar Blanka Vlasic and world 800m record holder David Rudisha will hope to illuminate the second and final day of the IAAF / VTB Bank Continental Cup in Split.
In the team picture, the Americas hold a narrow nine point lead from Europe, but in many respects today is all about Vlasic, who will surely revel in the attention of starring at a major global competition in her home town.
Yet she may have to share equal billing to Rudisha, the man of the moment, who has smashed the world 800m record not once but twice in the last fortnight.
No victory, of course, is ever routine, but anything less than victory for either would be a major surprise, not to mention a huge disappointment for the majority of the crowd inside the Poljud Stadium today.
For Vlasic her path to her target of maximum points for Europe has been cleared as two of her main rivals – German Ariane Friedrich and Chaunte Howard Lowe, the World leader from the USA – are not competing in Split. This leaves Sweden’s Emma Green (EUR), the silver medallist behind Vlasic at the European Championships, as her chief rival but few would expect the Croatian to stumble. Not here in front of her fans.
Rudisha’s opposition in the men’s 800m looks, on paper at least, even less of a factor and perhaps the main question on everybody’s lips is can he break the world 800m mark for a third successive Sunday following his accomplishments in Berlin and Rieti.
The Kenyan dampened such speculation at the pre-event press conference and wisely suggested with no pacemakers that was unlikely. However, what seems much more realistic is a race victory for Africa with US champion Nick Symmonds (AME) and Poland’s European champion Marcin Lewandowski likely to figure in the scrap for second.
Besides Vlasic and Rudisha, day two in Split will see plenty of other star names including David Oliver (AME) who starts a clear favourite in the men’s 110m Hurdles. The US athlete and Samsung Diamond League winner came within 0.02 of the World record earlier this season and although he also played down talk of a potential World record at the pre-event press conference it is difficult to see the popular Oliver shedding his unbeaten record for the outdoor season.
By contrast, the women’s 100m Hurdles looks an altogether more unpredictable affair with just 0.10 separating the fastest five in the field on season’s best times. Lolo Jones of the US and Canada’s Perdita Felicien form a powerful Americas pairing, but Australia’s Sally Pearson (APA) and the European Championships one-two - Nevin Yanit of Turkey and Ireland’s Derval O’Rourke - will also be in the mix.
Africa will expect big points in a mouthwatering women’s 5000m as the Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia meets Kenya’s World champion for the distance Vivian Cheruiyot. Throw into the equation Turkey’s Elvan Abeylegesse, the European and Olympic silver medallist, and we could be set for fireworks.
Lagat’s double ambitions continue
In fact endurance fans have much to look forward to as the world’s top two -
Tariku Bekele (AFR) of Ethiopia and Bernard Lagat (AME) of the USA clash in what should be an absorbing men’s 3000m. Lagat is hoping to complete the double having taken the 5000m on day one.
The women’s 1500m boasts no less than five women who have dipped below the four-minute barrier this season. Yet curiously the pre-event favourite, the Olympic champion and Diamond League winner Nancy Langat (AFR) has surprisingly never achieved that particularly target.
Among the Kenyan’s main dangers in a high-class race will be the European duo:
Hind Dehiba of France and Great Britain’s Lisa Dobriskey. Langat’s African team-mate’s Btissam Lakhouad of Morocco and former World Indoor champion Gelete Burka of Ethiopia and the US athlete Christin Wurth-Thomas of the USA.
Spearmon looking to defend 200m title..
Wallace Spearmon of the USA will be the No.1 sprint attraction on view and boasting an impressive season’s best of 19.79 he will be fancied to retain the 200m title he won four years ago in Athens by defeating one Usain Bolt. His Americas team-mate Churandy Martina (20.08) of the Netherlands Antilles looks his major challenger.
The women’s half-lap race appears a little less predictable with little to separate the European pair Elizaveta Bryzhina of the Ukraine and Russia’s Aleksandra Fedoriva from the Americas duo Consuella Moore of the USA and Cayman Islands sprinter Cydonie Mothersille
.. and Thorkildsen looking for Cup title No. 2
Class also abounds in the field events led by the incomparable Andreas Thorkildsen. The Norwegian javelin star is the reigning World, Olympic and European champion and it is very hard to see who can stop him retaining this title. German Matthias de Zordo, the European silver medallist, should guarantee big points for Europe.
The men’s Pole Vault serves up a clash between the world’s top two, France’s Renaud Lavillenie and Australia’s Steve Hooker (APA). Lavillenie, the European champion, has largely had the better of his long-time rival this season yet Hooker, the World and Olympic champion, should not be dismissed and is a formidable big-event performer.
Staying in the field and we are also set for another showdown between the world’s top two women shot putters as World Indoor champion Nadzeya Ostapchuk of Belarus meets World and Olympic gold medallist Valerie Adams of New Zealand. So far this season Ostapchuk (EUR) has held sway but Adams, representing the Asia/Pacific team, will not want to concede this title she won four years ago in Athens without a fight.
Back on the track and both steeplechase events take place tonight. In the women’s event Diamond League winner Milcah Chemos of Kenya will be fancied to take eight points for Africa, although Russia’s European champion Yuliya Zardudneva could give her a run for her money.
Meanwhile, in the men’s steeplechase, France’s European champion Mahiedine Mekhissi Benabbad is the fastest in the field this season and will hope to dent African pride. Lying in opposition will be World silver medallist Richard Mateelong (AFR) of Kenya and Uganda’s Benjamin Kiplagat (AFR).
Elsewhere, in the field Europe will hope to harvest more big points. In the men’s discus it is hard to oppose the pairing of Poland’s current European champion Piotr Malachowski and Germany’s World champion Robert Harting. Meanwhile, in the men’s Triple Jump, European and World gold medallist Phillips Idowu of Great Britain will start clear favourite. In the women’s Hammer Throw, Betty Heidler of Germany and Russia’s Tatyana Lysenko should be the fore, although two-time World champion Yipsi Moreno (AME) of Cuba will be a factor.
Europe also have the two leading ranked athletes in the women’s Long Jump in Ineta Radevica of Latvia and Portugal’s Naide Gomes, although Cuba’s Triple Jump specialist Yargeris Savigne (AME) and Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare, competing for Africa, should not be discounted.
The two-day competition concludes with both men’s and women’s 4x400m relays. In the latter event it should be a straight tussle between the Americas and Europe. Expect an Americas team containing World No.1 Jeremy Wariner to be dominant in the men’s event.
Steve Landells for the IAAF
IAAF / VTB Bank Continental Cup
Composition of Teams
- Each team will be allowed to enter two athletes in each event (three in the 1500m, 3000m, 5000m and 3000mSC but only the first two finishers from each team shall score points).
- Only one athlete from any one country may compete in each individual event.
- individual events: 1st: 8pts – 2nd: 7pts – 3rd: 6pts – 4th: 5pts – 5th: 4pts – 6th: 3pts – 7th: 2pts – 8th: 1pt
- relays: 1st: 15pts – 2nd: 11pts – 3rd: 7pts – 4th: 3pts
- teams: Points achieved by men and women will be combined and the overall winner of the IAAF Continental Cup will be the team with the most combined points.